Airbnb the ‘ele­phant in the room’

Albany Advertiser - - NEWS - Toby Hussey

The State Gov­ern­ment’s fail­ure to find a devel­oper for the Mid­dle­ton Beach ho­tel hasn’t sur­prised lo­cal ac­com­mo­da­tion providers, who say the mar­ket has strug­gled for some years.

Last month the State Gov­ern­ment con­ceded it had been un­able to find a builder for the pro­posed 12-storey mixed ho­tel and apart­ment build­ing at Mid­dle­ton Beach.

How­ever, the news didn’t shock Three Chim­neys Bed and Break­fast owner Craig Dixon, who said a lot of the blame lay with Airbnb, which has hit his in­dus­try’s prof­itabil­ity since it came into the mar­ket in 2012.

Mr Dixon said given the state of the mar­ket, it’s no won­der the pro­posed 80 to 140-room, 12-storey ho­tel hadn’t had much in­ter­est from de­vel­op­ers be­cause Al­bany ac­com­mo­da­tion providers had been against the wall for years.

“The ele­phant in the room is Airbnb,” he said.

“No ho­tel devel­oper is go­ing to spend how­ever much money de­vel­op­ing a 100-room ho­tel and want­ing to charge $200 a night.”

Mr Dixon said ev­ery op­er­a­tor in town had been af­fected by the rise of Airbnb, with some hav­ing to drop room prices by 20 per cent to at­tract cus­tomers.

It’s a con­cern shared by the gen­eral man­ager of an Al­bany CBD mo­tel, who asked not to be named.

She said the on­line ac­com­mo­da­tion provider was mak­ing se­cur­ing cus­tomers harder than ever.

“The main thing is there’s just no reg­u­la­tion,” she said.

“See­ing what’s hap­pen­ing to my other col­leagues, I have to stand up and say some­thing about it.”

She said she wasn’t sur­prised the State Gov­ern­ment had failed to find a devel­oper, given the lack of de­mand for tra­di­tional ac­com­mo­da­tion providers in Al­bany.

“They’re go­ing to strug­gle to fill their rooms,” she said.

“For maybe three months of the year they may have a 60 per cent oc­cu­pancy, but you can’t run a busi­ness like that.

“Dur­ing the win­ter we just ex­pe­ri­enced, some prop­er­ties (were) not even run­ning at 20 per cent oc­cu­pancy.”

Airbnb’s web­site claims it has 41 homes avail­able for rent in Al­bany in Oc­to­ber, rang­ing from sin­gle rooms to en­tire houses, and the com­pany rented to more than 11,000 vis­i­tors across WA in 2017.

Last month Airbnb head of pub­lic pol­icy Brent Thomas said the com­pany had an im­por­tant role in bring­ing tourists to the State.

“Peo­ple in­creas­ingly don’t want to travel how their par­ents or grand­par­ents did last cen­tury and, as such, main­tain­ing the sta­tus quo or do­ing the same old things won’t get WA out of its tourism dol­drums,” he said.

State Tourism Min­is­ter Paul Pa­palia and Plan­ning Min­is­ter Rita Saf­fi­oti are un­der­stood to be work­ing on new reg­u­la­tions.

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